Updated: Dec 7, 2020
The rain was bombing heavy all night and I awoke at 6 am sharp to an intense siren. I waited for an earthquake or tornado but nothing happened. Maybe it was an old official wakeup alarm to call the workers to arise and work the farms for the glory of the revolution or something. Who knows.
One other guest was up for breakfast, a guy who was touring cigar plantations with friends. He said he'd had a few GS's and I was crazy to be riding solo in Nicaragua. His crew all had armed guards with them when taking the tours of the tobacco farms. I silently thought maybe THEY were the ones in dangerous places lol. He said there's no way he'd ride in a country where tourists had armed guards assigned to them.
It was already hot and sunny when I got the bike from the junkyard parking and was surprised to see it still upright after the all night rains. The sidestand had sunk a couple inches but luckily kept the bike up.
After packing I was wished well by the cigar dude who said he was now jealous, and the hotel owner lady who was sad I was leaving, but gave me a couple of Nicaraguan cigars. Her little son's first name Elias, was the same as my middle name, so she figured I was special.
I've never smoked a cigar but now seems like good time to learn since I'm in the territory. Need to find out what the local drink is, then smoke a cigar and puke. I'll save the other to chew on while riding.
The road descended from Esteli's higher elevation down into a valley filled with rice fields and paddies, with a long line of people with machetes or knives slowly cutting a long line across the fields. I passed massive concrete lots with rice spread out, workers spreading and turning it with wooden rakes in the hot sun. The skies were blue with thick, white clouds everywhere, the humidity so dense it made haze in the sky.
I passed lone pigs and multiple herds of cattle loose on the roadsides, an old man under a tree with several green parrots for sale, perched on his arms and shoulders, sweat covered men washing semi's and trailers on the roadside with 5 gallon buckets of dirty water.
Everything seems to occur on the roadsides - animals, trash burning, people under trees, flocks of chickens, men on motorcycles texting, car repairs, you name it it's on the roadside. I even saw an old adobe house on fire, but no one seemed to care. Not much you can do, so may as well just sit under a tree and watch traffic go by.
Police were in every village and I generally ride the way the local bikers do. They rarely lane split, rarely pass cars and never cross the solid yellow line. That tells me the cops are serious so I try to be vigilant. And yep there were a couple of speed traps but luckily I had slowed down just before hitting them.
From a high point I could see the twin volcanoes that form the island of Ometepe on Lago Cocibolca ahead, a solo smoking volcano in another direction. To my right lay the city of Managua, where I've been told you will get stopped and shaken down by the cops, no thank you, and to the left lay my destination of the old city of Granada.
Stopping briefly for water and a snack at a large gas station, I shared a tiny table with a young guy with a helmet. In broken English he asked about the bike and where I was going. He was texting as we talked and incredulous that I was traveling alone. When he asked and finally understood and said "polo a polo", he shook his head and said I was crazy. Whoever was on the other end was asking questions and the cautious side of me made sure I spoke in generalities. Then I asked how long it would take to reach Esteli, where I'd just come from, telling him I was meeting four other riders there. Chances are it was all legit, but I try to never tell my next destination in conversations. When I get a weird feeling sometimes I ride the opposite direction a block or three and loop through town back to my original direction. The large gas stations and truck stops seem to have a lot of people hanging around so I generally try to avoid those places. A couple of times in Mexico in the past, I felt like there were people there just watching. I don't try to be paranoid but the big crowded stations make me uncomfortable.
I finally rolled into Granada, hot and sweaty, its atmosphere, style and coloration a welcome change. A few backpackers and tourists were on the sidewalks, and the town had a good feel.
Color - something rarely seen since Mexico
My hotel was at the quiet lakeside where I planned to take in the view, try a cigar and turn green until Charlie, Jules and Christine arrive in a day or two.